Five Amazingly Free Family Outings in Memphis
If you're tired of hearing the kids tell you they're bored, take them out for one of these five family-friendly excursions that are completely free, all without traveling beyond Memphis.
Spend a Tuesday at the Zoo
The Memphis Zoo (2000 Prentiss Pl., Memphis, TN) offers free admission beginning at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, every month except March. Baby hippo Winnie is one of the popular attractions at the zoo in 2017. Winnie and her mom are on display everyday, but the display schedule rotates with several other adult hippos. Check the schedule on the zoo website or ask a zookeeper the best time for a Winnie siting during your visit. Besides the hippo exhibits, kids will appreciate the colorful fish in the aquarium, the vampire bats and sloths of the Animals of the Night exhibit, or the ever-popular Primate Canyon and Penguin Rock areas.
Hot kiddos will enjoy cooling off in the zoo's Teton Trek area, which features geysers of gushing water to run through on a hot afternoon. A replica of the Nile River in the zoo courtyard area is also open to wading.
Note: Free zoo entry requires a photo ID showing age and proof of residency, if you're over age 17. Adults are allowed to bring up to five children for free. Parking at the zoo costs $5, so have a little cash on hand before planning your family outing. If you wish to see the CHINA exhibit and its giant pandas, you'll have to shell out a $3 conservation fee.
Explore the Environment at Lichterman Nature Center
Like the zoo, Lichterman Nature Center (5992 Quince Rd., Memphis, TN) offers free admission every Tuesday, as long as you visit after 1 p.m. The center sits on 65 acres, offering more than three miles of trails spanning everything from meadow, lake, forest and garden areas. Since the center has both indoor and outdoor exhibits, there's plenty to do and see no matter what the weather.
Walk through a forest canopy on a boardwalk two stories high, or take a peek at microscopic organisms that thrive in the area. See snakes, turtles and lizards at the Backyard Wildlife Center while learning about bites and stings. Kids will also enjoy finding out how animals adapt to their habitats, thanks to camouflage, sturdy shells or webbed feet. Most exhibits offer both entertainment and educational value, teaching kids to be better stewards of the earth.
Explore One of the World's Best Playgrounds
Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (6903 Great View Dr. N., Memphis, TN) was named one of the top 10 coolest playgrounds in world by Mental Floss Magazine and has also been recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for its sustainability. This playground must be seen to be believed, but adults be forewarned: You may get jealous and want to jump in on the fun.
Woodland Discovery Playground was designed with input from kids and features several play zones full of slides, sand, climbing nets, treehouses ... all the stuff that kids' playtime dreams are made of. The surface areas are made from recycled and reclaimed materials, such as rubber from running shoes and boots. Native trees surround the area, and there's plenty of room to sit and relax or get in on the fun.
The playground closes one hour before sunset, so plan on visiting earlier in the day to maximize your enjoyment time.
Watch the Peabody Ducks Parade
Take the kids to see an old Memphis tradition that's just ducky: the twice-daily duck procession at The Peabody Memphis Hotel (149 Union Ave., Memphis, TN). Young children in particular will appreciate this peculiar event.
Every day at 11 a.m., a duckmaster leads a procession of mallards from the rooftop to the fountain in the lobby, all set to music. Hotel staff roll out the red carpet for the ducks, who waddle along it and into the fountain, where they enjoy their stay until 5 p.m., at which point the duckmaster leads them back out to their elaborate rooftop home.
Note that the ducks are raised by a local farmer and hold their positions for only three months at the hotel, returning to the farm to live as wild ducks once again.
Walk Like a Giant Along the Entire Mississippi
Kids and adults alike will appreciate the scale topographical model of the Mississippi River at the Mud Island River Park (125 N. Front St., Memphis, TN). Cool off on a warm day by kicking off your shoes and strolling through all 2,000 feet of this river model, complete with flowing water. The river empties into a faux Gulf of Mexico, a pond containing 1.3 million gallons of water.
Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a family meal at a table along the Riverwalk after your excursion. Watch paddleboats glide along the mini Gulf as you relax.
Note: The Riverwalk area is free to visit, although optional museum visits and monorail rides do carry an admission charge. Mud Island is open Tuesdays through Sundays from April to October. The Riverwalk area may be closed during inclement weather.
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- Memphis Zoo: New Baby
- Trip Savvy: Splash Parks, Ground Fountains and Wading Pools in Memphis
- Shelby Farms' Park: Woodland Discovery Playground
- Mental Floss: 16 Coolest Playgrounds in the World
- Shelby Farms Park Conservancy: Shelby Farms Park Conservancy
- Memphis Museums: Lichterman Nature Center
- American Society of Landscape Architects: The Woodland Discovery Playground
- The Peabody Memphis: The Peabody Memphis Ducks
- Mud Island: Riverwalk
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.